Tag Archives: Travel tips

Travelling to Japan? Here’s What You Need to Know About Etiquette

This is a collaborative post written by Jordan Greene.

Owing to their isolation from the world until the past few centuries, Japan has developed a very different culture to most other nations. Here’s a guide on how to avoid making a social faux pas when in the land of the rising sun.

Don’t worry about a tip


Waiter (photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sebr/)

Ah, the age-old debate of how much to tip a waiter. Is 10 or 15% the right amount? Whatever the case, it’s not a quandary you need concern yourself with in Japan.

It’s not ‘rude’ to tip, but it’s practically unheard of and will likely result in “the restaurant staff chasing you down in order to give back any money left behind.”

A simple “thank you” (gochiosama deshita) is enough to appease your waiting staff after a delicious meal, so don’t bother flashing the Yen.

Take your shoes off inside

Cleanliness is next to godliness – which is something the Japanese preach in abundance. Special “Genkan” areas are set up between the doorway and the man body of the house to give visitors the chance to remove their shoes before heading inside.

Once in the Genkan it’s not appropriate to touch the surface you walked in on with your un-shoed foot, and it’s also polite to point your shoes towards the door after you’ve removed them.

Refiling your glass


Drinks (photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dw/)

It might be second nature to most people, but in Japan it’s actually bad luck and bad manners to reach over and refill a glass you’re drinking from if you’re with company.

Thankfully, owing to this being intricately linked in the Japanese psyche, people notice when someone is without a drink very quickly and will be prompt to top it up for you.

Luckily this just applies to drinking in public or with another person and not when you’re on your own (otherwise life could be very hard).

Blowing your nose

This is probably one of the more commonly-known social errors Westerners carry out in Japan, but we thought we’d cover it anyway.

The Japanese aren’t too keen on the noise it makes, or the fact you’re blasting germs through the air.

Sometimes clearing your nasal passage just has to be done, however – so here’s a guide on how to do it properly without causing outrage amongst the locals.

Talking on the phone on a train


Train (photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dakiny/)

Quite frankly I wish this was a little more hammered-home here too. The Japanese have it right when they look down on people chatting away inside the confines of a train carriage.

Nobody wants or needs to hear your personal conversation – and not only that, but just one half of it. Chatting loudly and reacting to a person nobody else can here is just unnerving.

If you get caught doing this on a train or bus in Japan you’re likely to be shot several dark looks for good measure.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan at some point, make sure you avoid making these errors in etiquette. While they might seem trivial to you, they could have a huge impact on how you’re perceived by the locals.